Seventeen light show

A playful post.

My daughter Maria is a film major, and her passion is film editing. For fun, she adds a glowing scribble animation effect to existing videos to highlight and interpret movement. At least that’s my explanation! She adds them frame by frame, so it’s a ginormous amount of work. Such fun! Here’s her latest:

Trouble is a Friend

For my birthday, my daughter Maria, along with Mashley’s lead singer Ashley, did a cover of a song I have asked them for four years to record — Lenka’s Trouble is a Friend. I am a huge Lenka fan. Maria presented it to me on Sunday after I got back in town from a work trip. I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude.

I know they get lots of suggestions for songs to cover, so I have refrained from proliferating requests, but somehow in my imagination I always heard them covering this song. Using a super creative setting for the song, Maria recorded the guitar part earlier, loaded it into Ashley’s phone so she could sing with it and then she edited it all later. It took tons of time to practice, plan, record and edit. A labor of love!

The haunting words and minor key, the play on dark and light, the low percussive hum of the road noise, the harmonies, the rosary cross swinging, the falling phone and the final “slurp” all make it a supremely wonderful work of art for a man who loves, above all else, the beauty of the “broken form.”

Thank you my dear daughter and dear Ashley, women beautiful inside and out.

Don’t Believe the Hype

This is a really odd post for St Maximilian’s feast day. No obvious link. But it’s what I wrote. And it’s the last piece I have to post for a while as the semester ramps up!

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When I recently watched the new music video for Twenty One Pilots’ song, The Hype, and I teared up.

Not exactly sure why I did, or why I am even telling you this, but here’s what I thought later — in fact, these thoughts came to me after I spent part of an afternoon with my daughter Maria and her friends discussing TØP lyrics. It was sublime. No, those young women are sublime.

The song and the video are about Tyler & Josh’s fierce struggle to stay grounded, as over the last 10 years they have skyrocketed to international fame. Fame brings with it myriad temptations to delusions of grandeur or to being crushed beneath the critics. In this song, they refuse to buy into the “hype” — good or bad — around them. But it’s not easy, as Tyler sings:

Sometimes I feel cold, even paralyzed
My interior world needs to sanitize

The song and the video take us down into Tyler’s interior world (heart and home), where he hopes to sanitize any contamination. Tyler, who finds solace in music and lyric-writing, takes us through a wild allegorical re-telling of the band’s rapid rise to fame (through the roof!), violent fall, purging, and the final recovery of firm footing where they began: in the humility of home with family and friends. With this return to the true center, a broken and scattered interior world is restored to right-order.

So it seems to me.

Why did this all move me? Maybe because I have such a deep reverence for people who achieve popularity and yet remain unfazed (or uncontaminated) by it. Who keep their priorities in order, and don’t sell their souls to gain the world. These also use their public status (in ecclesial or secular culture) to benefit and bring joy and good to others, not principally to feed their wallets or egos. I have seen how popularity can subtly (and not so subtly) change the mindset and motivations of good people, destroy their core relationships and quickly poison the good being done.

It’s also why Jesus hammered on His disciples about power, influence, talents, gifts being given for service. Along those lines, a mentor once said to me, “Whenever people praise anything you do, think immediately to yourself: How much God must love them to give me these gifts. Because your gifts aren’t about you. And when they criticize you, thank them for doing you a great service: keeping you honest.”

And friendship. Friends keep it real and are an anchor of life.

Oh the greatness of our crucified God-Hero, Jesus Christ, who redeemed power and influence by His cross, who faced criticism with courage and humility. He used His popularity with people and His rejection by the people as opportunities to serve, to lift us up, and to bring us back to the Father’s house.

TØP offers a message of depth and hope to an increasingly homeless and orphaned culture. I’m grateful they’ve chosen to not believe the hype. Which is why Tyler announced this summer they will be taking time off from touring so he and his wife can start a family.

Sometimes I feel cold, even paralyzed
My interior world needs to sanitize
I’ve got to step through or I’ll dissipate
I’ll record my step through for my basement tapes
Nice to know my kind will be on my side
I don’t believe the hype
And you know you’re a terrible sight
But you’ll be just fine
Just don’t believe the hype
Yeah, they might be talking behind your head
Your exterior world can step off instead
It might take some friends and a warmer shirt
But you don’t get thick skin without getting burnt
Nice to know my kind will be on my side
I don’t believe the hype
And you know you’re a terrible sight
But you’ll be just fine
Just don’t believe the hype
No, I don’t know which way I’m going
But I can hear my way around
No, I don’t know which way I’m going
But I can hear my way around
No, I don’t know which way I’m going
But I can hear my way around
No, I don’t know which way I’m going
But I can hear my way around
But I can hear my way around
Nice to know my kind will be on my side
I don’t believe the hype
And you know you’re a terrible sight
But you’ll be just fine
Just don’t believe the hype (don’t believe the hype)
Nice to know my kind will be on my side
I don’t believe the hype
And you know you’re a terrible sight
But you’ll be just fine
Just don’t believe the hype
Nice to know my kind will be on my side
I don’t believe the hype
And you know you’re a terrible sight
But you’ll be just fine
Just don’t believe the hype
Source: LyricFind

Christ: Killjoy or Joy?

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati

Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? — Pope Benedict XVI

Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self. — Pope Francis

This point is enormous. Is Christianity a killjoy? Doesn’t faith evacuate from life all enjoyment? Doesn’t the spiritual life demand that only otherworldly pleasure be permitted? Dancing, singing, playing, celebrating, feasting, laughing, exploring, living out this-life’s many possible adventures, joys and pleasures — are these not “lower” things of the world that should be understood as merely tolerated concessions for the weak (like me) who are not strong enough to be really spiritual?

19th century British poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne, expressed this view of Christianity incisively in a line of his poem, Hymn to Proserpine:

Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath

Jesus the bloodless downer, who siphons life of all vitality.

It is unquestionably true that there is in Christianity always an oscillating tension between the fasting and feasting, laughing and weeping, dancing and sitting in sackcloth, pleasure and suffering, living and dying, heaven and earth. There is a time for everything. But we humans are people of extremes, uncomfortable with the tense middle. So we seem to feel the need to either dis Christ’s Cana festal wine in order to exalt Calvary’s penitential vinegar, or ditch Christ’s Calvary for Cana. We are either Epicurean swines or dour Manicheans, laughing with sinners or crying with saints.

Yet, the truth is found both in Cana and in Calvary, when each is lived virtuously and fully. In each burns the white-hot core of radical holiness. The reconciliation of the war between flesh and spirit is not found in getting rid of the flesh to become pure spirit, but in healing their sinful rift so that both can rejoice in God’s magnificent plan for them to live in harmony. Indeed, the only thing that sets spirit against flesh, temporal against eternal, world against God is sin. Once sin is dealt a death blow in us, the enmity is over and “all things in heaven and on earth” can rejoice together. We are called to taste that conciliation here and now, in this life, even if the fullness of the Party is reserved for the next.

Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine,
There’s always laughter and good red wine.
At least I’ve always found it so.
Benedicamus Domino!” — Hilaire Belloc

I love to say when I teach the meaning of “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1), that sacrifice does not mean pain. It simply means living in accord with God’s will in every moment as the only fitting “return,” offered as an act of thanksgiving for all He has done for us. Sometimes that “will” involves pain, sometimes pleasure; sometimes heavenly joys, other times earthly; mostly both. The content of our sacrificial lives is found in “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, any excellence and anything worthy of praise” (Phil 4:8). Marital sex, playing sports, hiking, talking politics, performing music, working, praying, feeding the poor and heroic suffering are all noble sacrifices when done God’s way.

Our daily morning offering includes our prayers, works, joys and sufferings. How often do you think of your joys as a powerful sacrificial offering that makes you a saint and saves the world? Sacrifice is found when, “whatever you do, in word or deed, [you] do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him …. whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 10:31). Or think of wonderful Psalm 27:6’s “I shall offer within his tent a sacrifice of joy.”

Over the years as our children have grown, Patti and I have worked mightily to bring into their lives men and women of faith who love life as they seek to be saints, fantastically diverse examples of what it looks like to choose Christ and joie de vivre, the cheerful enjoyment of life. Peeps who are so heavenly minded, they love earthly goods (and so they don’t feel the compulsive need to talk religion all the time — they know God’s world is much bigger than that).

Thanks be to God, we have found so many! I wish I could name them all! Married couples, single folks, widows and widowers, seminarians, priests, Religious. We are grateful in the extreme for all of them, and I tear up as I write just thinking about them.

But I personally am most grateful for the example of my wife herself. She embodies this “tense middle” in a most remarkable way. She keeps song, joy, fun, play, laughter and prayer alive in our God-fearing home. She loves movies, parties, music, dancing, sipping Sazeracs, playing games with our children, screaming for the New Orleans Saints, smoking cigars with me, laughing with friends, being a cheerful giver, ever upbeat — and even in the face of the dour, she retains her joy. How? Well, from my up-close perspective, it’s because she loves Jesus so well, loves us so well, loves others so well, loves life so well. Yep, that’s it, she loves.

Love alone reconciles all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love alone never fails.

If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation. And so, today, with great strength and great conviction, on the basis of long personal experience of life, I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen. — Pope Benedict XVI

L’Chaim!

Hava nagila, Hava nagila = Let’s rejoice, Let’s rejoice
Hava nagila v’nismecha = Let us rejoice and be glad
Hava neranana, Hava neranana = Let’s sing, let’s sing
Hava neranena v’nismecha = Let’s sing and be glad
Uri, uri achim = Awake, awake brothers
Uri achim b’lev sameach = Awake brothers with a joyful heart.

OH, AND…..our daughter’s ‘Senior Cheer’ on the last day of school last week, announcing their class is now the Senior class…

“REJOICE AND BE GLAD!” (Mt 5:12)

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We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.

Are you called to the consecrated life? Be holy by living out your commitment with joy. Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church. Do you work for a living? Be holy by laboring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by patiently teaching the little ones how to follow Jesus. Are you in a position of authority? Be holy by working for the common good and renouncing personal gain. — Pope Francis, Gaudete et exultate 

I have read Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et exultate, so many times since its publication I have lost count. Each time back, I always discover a fresh set of insights.

It is the the first time the Magisterium has produced a whole document, written in a very accessible style, on the call to holiness (especially) for the laity whose home is the secular world. Certainly other documents have touched the subject, but there has been no single sustained reflection on the stunning development of Vatican II:

All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness, as such, a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society (LG #40).

The “highest” vocational form of Christian life is not consecrated life or ordained ministry, but the call to holiness. All other measurements of vocational height in Christianity, important as they are, submit to the supremacy of love of God-neighbor, which is the soul and summit of holiness. In assessing the holy “heights” of priest, Levite and Samaritan-layman in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus exalts to the highest summit the one who stooped lowest in mercy.

Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave. — Matt. 20:26-27

This is the greatness, to me, of Pope Francis’ exhortation. It democratizes holiness, with his characteristic realist, practical and earthy flair. It has the wisdom of a seasoned churchman who knows well the weal and warts of Catholic culture, who has a refined grasp of the principles of discerning God’s will in daily life, who is able to get at the simplicity of faith in the midst of the complexity of life, who loves to draw from diverse sources of wisdom that demonstrate the kaleidoscopic character of catholic Truth, and who locates joy, again and again, as the preeminent sign of spiritual vitality. #32:

Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy.

I must say, with a bit of weariness, in the midst of an ecclesial culture rife with cutting bitterness, caustic cynicism and joyless anger, this is a welcome breath of fresh air. I said in a class I taught on this document in May, “If you want to rightly assess the teaching of Pope Francis, first spend a full year immersed in this document, striving to live its vision out to the limits of your strength, and only then dare to return to his pontificate and critically reflect.”

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…